Sunday, October 23, 2016

Monster aka The Horrible Dr Crimmen aka El Monstruo Resucitado (1953)

Intriguing if not always successful horror film from Mexico is a weird mix of Frankenstein and Phantom of the Opera.

A reporter answers a lonely hearts and meets a brilliant but disfigured plastic surgeon. They seem to hit it off,but when the doctor overhears a conversation suggesting the affection he was shown was less than honest he flips out and vows to get revenge. He attempts to using the body of a recently deceased and extremely handsome presidential candidate.

If you can get past the cheapness, the frequent rear projection and mixed effect makeup then you're going to have a pretty good time. An atypical in construction horror tale is in large part a romantic soap opera and it makes for a rather dream like film. There is something about the music and the claustrophobic and carefully constructed images that makes this film rather eerie.

The film isn't perfect, it can be extremely clunky at times, but at at the same time it's one of those footnote films that any lover of horror films really should take a look at.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

In Brief: Detention of the Dead (2012)

Based on a stage play this is a semi-immobile zombie film about a bunch of students trapped in a school during a zombie attack. An odd mix of comedy and horror didn't work for me largely because of long sequences which kind of just sit there. While the film gets a lot of points for being better than most zombie films, it never fully over comes it origins.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Into The Inferno (2016) Toronto 2016

Cinematically there are few things as perfect and beautiful as Werner Herzog operating at the top of his game. When Herzog clicks with his subject the most amazing mind blowing things happen. With INTO THE INFERNO Herzog is (mostly) operating that in rarefied air where cinematic classics dwell.

This film is nominally a trip around the world with Werner Herzog  and his co-director Clive Oppenheimer, a vulcanologist to see active volcanos. Herzog met Oppenheimer during his trip to Antartica for ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD. The pair  fell in with each other on the edge of a crater and have been talking ever since. The trips allow Herzog to ruminate on the volcanos, the lives of the people who live by them and his career (Herzog has been chasing volcanos for decades).

Leave it to Herzog to go off with a scientist and and end up making a film that is mystical and more interested in the unquantifiable questions concerning the effects of the living mountains on human beings Clearly Herzog knows that they haunt people since they have been in several of his films going all the way back to the marvelous LA SOUFRIERE  where he went to an island that was about to explode. Herzog's examination is book-ended with the words of two tribal elders on different islands of the same archipelago talking about the spirits that inhabit the volcanos. The sequences are not condescending nor funny. We don't laugh at the men, the first, because his sincerity comes through so clearly that it's impossible not to believe him, while with the second we have traveled long enough and far enough with Herzog that we accept hat he is saying as a kind of truth.

Herzog's quest to see effects of the mountains on people takes us to some interesting places including North Korea where where a now dormant volcano is said to be the birth place of the Korean people. It's a weird sequence that even Herzog acknowledges is strange with it's stage managed presentation of life in the country. As Herzog says its just something where you just have to go with it. It includes a weird encounter where a bunch of college students sing to the volcano. Its one of those odd moments where you think that Herzog is putting us on except it's so weird a thing and North Korea is supposed to be crazy enough that you accept that it's something that happened

While Herzog's contemplations are interesting, what givess the film and Herzog's words their power are the visuals. A mix of old and  new footage both from Herzog and by others showing the volcanos erupting, sputtering or just simmering. Herzog gives us some of the most amazing things you'll ever see and and they are of such power that you come to understand why the living mountains have such a hold over the people living around them. If I saw the things in this film on a regular basis I too would find them mystical. The images are so over powering that I want to see the film several more times just to see the imagery.

As good as the film is the film has a major flaw that upsets the films narrative  to the point it makes what is largely one of Herzog's best films and makes it a little less. It happens during the trip to Ethiopia where Herzog and Oppenheinmer connect with an anthropologist who has just located the fossil remains of an ancient hominid. In a sequence that runs way too long and in no way ties into the rest of the film we listen to the man prattle on about human origins and watch as he and the filmmaker root around in the dirt for bone fragments. It stops the film dead and runs so long that the film kind of never recovers. The thematic threads of volcanos and people get stretched or snap and one wonders how some of the next sequences tie in. Honestly it wasn't until the final bit with the talk of a mythical American god and a cargo cult that the film got back on track

Problems or no INTO THE INFERNO is an amazing film. In a weird way it's one of my favorite Werner Herzog films because when it's on and the sound, narration and image link up it becomes one of the great brain expanders of the year. This is a magical film that should be seen as big as possible. I can't recommend this film enough.

INTO THE INFERNO is heading for Netflix on October 28, but  the film is getting festival a nd theatricalscreenings so if you get a chance see it- preferably on a big screen where the sound and image will leave you in state of ecstatic giddiness.

One of my favorite films of 2016

Total Verhoeven at Lincoln Center with the director in attendance November 15 and 16

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces Total Verhoeven, a complete retrospective of the fearless director’s work, on the occasion of the U.S. release of new film Elle (NYFF54), November 9-23.

Verhoeven will appear in person for the retrospective, participating in Q&As after screenings of RoboCop on November 15 and his second Dutch feature, Turkish Delight, on November 16. Additionally, he will introduce Starship Troopers on November 15 and Showgirls on November 16.

Tickets will go on sale Thursday, October 27 and are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for members. Tickets for the sneak preview of Elle are $18; $13 for members. See more and save with 3+ film discount package (Elle excluded) and $125 All Access Pass (Elle included).

I don't think I need to say more than that other than go buy tickets.

All films screening at Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street)

Paul Verhoeven, France/Germany, 2016, 131m
French with English subtitles
Paul Verhoeven’s first feature in a decade—and his first in French—ranks among his most incendiary, improbable concoctions: a wry, almost-screwball comedy of manners about a woman who responds to a rape by refusing the mantle of victimhood. As the film opens, Parisian heroine Michèle (a brilliant Isabelle Huppert) is brutally violated in her kitchen by a hooded intruder. Rather than report the crime, Michèle, the CEO of a video game company and daughter of a notorious mass murderer, calmly sweeps up the mess and proceeds to engage her assailant in a dangerous game of domination and submission in which her motivations remain a constant source of mystery, humor, and tension. A Sony Pictures Classics release. An NYFF54 selection.
Wednesday, November 9, 6:30pm

Basic Instinct
Paul Verhoeven, USA/France, 1992, 35mm, 128m
Verhoeven’s sleek, sexually daring thriller is Vertigo for the 1990s. Michael Douglas is the troubled police detective seduced into a series of cat-and-mouse mind games by Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell, a cool, Hitchcock-blonde crime novelist with a penchant for sleeping with murderers and who may or may not be one herself. Throughout, Verhoeven revels in the story’s ambiguity, creating a world in which sex is both unbelievably hot and charged with menace, and nearly everyone is guilty of something. Even the ending is a tease.
Wednesday, November 9, 9:15pm
Tuesday, November 15, 3:45pm
Saturday, November 19, 6:45pm

Black Book / Zwartboek
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 2006, 35mm, 145m
English, Dutch, German, and Hebrew with English subtitles
Working in the Netherlands again after two decades in Hollywood, Verhoeven seized the opportunity to make an unusually complex World War II thriller. After her family is gunned down by the SS, a Jewish singer (Carice van Houten) goes undercover as a spy for the Dutch resistance, risking everything when she becomes romantically involved with a Nazi officer (Sebastian Koch). Shifting loyalties, double crosses, and Mata Hari-esque sexual intrigue abound, but what’s most striking is Verhoeven’s characteristic ambivalence: as in so many of his films he creates a finely shaded world in which everyone must make tough moral compromises to survive.
Monday, November 14, 3:00pm
Friday, November 18, 6:15pm

Business Is Business / Wat zien ik
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1971, 35mm, 90m
English-dubbed version
Verhoeven’s first feature is unmistakably his: outrageous, satiric, erotic, and gleefully unrespectable. It’s a chaotic comic portrait of two enterprising prostitutes (Ronnie Bierman and Sylvia de Leur) looking for love in between rendezvous with clients. (Their specialty: role-playing everything from chickens to corpses for their kinky customers.) A goofy, groovy tour through the red light district of swinging ‘70s Amsterdam, Business Is Business may be the most high-spirited, relatively untroubled film of Verhoeven’s career thus far, but it’s also the first iteration of one of his key themes: we do what we must to survive.
Thursday, November 10, 7:00pm
Sunday, November 13, 6:30pm

The 4th Man / De vierde man
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1983, 35mm, 102m
Dutch with English subtitles
While most of Verhoeven’s works can be read as subversive genre exercises, the last Dutch film he made before decamping for Hollywood plays like a feverish satire of a Serious European Art Film. Haunted by surreal visions of death and violence, a Catholic, alcoholic, bisexual writer (Jeroen Krabbé) is seduced by and shacks up with a suspiciously thrice-widowed beauty salon owner (Renée Soutendijk)—but he really has eyes for her sexy, would-be boyfriend (Thom Hoffman). One of the director’s most outlandish and inspired films is an alternately funny and freaky hothouse blend of oneiric symbolism, homoeroticism, religious iconography, and witchcraft.
Thursday, November 10, 9:15pm
Sunday, November 13, 4:15pm

Paul Verhoeven, USA/Spain/Netherlands, 1985, 35mm, 126m
Though it was Verhoeven’s first English-language film, Flesh+Blood is in many ways an extension of his Dutch work: it’s shot by regular cinematographer Jan de Bont, stars frequent leading man Rutger Hauer, and is marked by the director’s typically thorny sensibility. Italy, 1501: after they’re swindled by a nobleman, a band of mercenaries headed by the savage Martin (Hauer) get their revenge by kidnapping his son’s young bride-to-be (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Worlds removed from the chivalrous romance of Hollywood legends, this is a muddy, bloody, brutal vision of the Middle Ages, with a rapist-kidnapper antihero at its center. Little wonder it was met with indifference by American audiences unprepared for Verhoeven’s uncompromising worldview.
Saturday, November 12, 1:30pm
Sunday, November 20, 3:30pm

Hollow Man
Paul Verhoeven, USA/Germany, 2000, 35mm, 112m
Verhoeven’s last Hollywood film to date is this underrated, twisted take on The Invisible Man. Kevin Bacon is an egomaniac scientist who makes himself the human guinea pig in a top-secret, government-funded invisibility experiment—but this newly acquired “power” unleashes his inner homicidal maniac. Verhoeven makes inventive use of state-of-the-art special effects (ever wondered what an invisible man looks like underwater?) in this satisfyingly pulpy thriller, which is, “like his other films, the work of a macabre moralist who's fascinated by the shape of our worst impulses” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).
Friday, November 18, 9:15pm
Sunday, November 20, 8:30pm

Katie Tippel / Keetje Tippel
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1975, 35mm, 107m
Dutch with English subtitles
One of Verhoeven’s most visually beautiful films depicts both the squalor and opulence of 19th-century Europe. Born into extreme poverty, Katie (Turkish Delight’s Monique van de Ven)—something like the great-grandmother of Showgirls’ ruthless Nomi—must rely on her tenacity to get ahead, as she goes from prostitute to artist’s model to fine lady in turn-of-the-century Amsterdam. Verhoeven twists this earthy, up-from-the-gutter tale—based on the memoirs of Dutch realist writer Neel Doff—into an indictment of capitalist exploitation.
Sunday, November 13, 8:30pm
Wednesday, November 16, 4:00pm

Paul Verhoeven, USA, 1987, 101m
Verhoeven demonstrated his ability to deliver both genre thrills and serious social commentary in this prescient and disturbing look at the rise of the corporate police state. In a dystopian, futuristic Detroit, a nefarious mega-conglomerate unveils the latest in crime-fighting technology: part cyborg, part revivified corpse of a police officer (Peter Weller) slain in the line of duty, RoboCop at first seems a surefire success—until he rebels against his programming. This sci-fi pulp masterpiece is packed with both inventive filmmaking—a grimy, cyberpunk look; satiric news broadcasts; chilling point-of-view shots—and provocative ideas about corporate takeover, the militarization of the police force, and the relationship between man and machine. 4K restoration of the uncut version!
Friday, November 11, 7:00pm
Tuesday, November 15, 6:30pm (Q&A with Paul Verhoeven)
Thursday, November 17, 4:00pm
Tuesday, November 22, 9:30pm

Paul Verhoeven, USA/France, 1995, 35mm, 131m
Unbound by musty notions of “good taste,” Showgirls goes further than any other film of the 1990s in its orgiastic depiction of consumerism, crass spectacle, and the dark side of the American Dream. Elizabeth Berkley (in a tour-de-force of hysterical excess) stars as Nomi, a tough-as-nails drifter with a go-it-alone attitude and a murky past, who arrives in Las Vegas and sets about trampling on everyone around her—including Gina Gershon’s evil-seductive nightclub diva—as she fights her way up from stripper in a sleazy club to star showgirl. With its deliciously overripe dialogue and nigh-unhinged performances, Showgirls is both a delirious star-is-born satire and a terrifying vision of capitalism’s corruption of the soul.
Friday, November 11, 4:15pm
Saturday, November 12, 9:00pm
Wednesday, November 16, 9:15pm (Introduction by Paul Verhoeven)
Friday, November 18, 3:30pm

Soldier of Orange / Soldaat van Oranje
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1977, 35mm, 150m
English, German, and Dutch with English subtitles
This bracing World War II epic was the film that brought Verhoeven to Hollywood’s attention. It follows a group of college friends through the Nazi occupation of Holland, as two (Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé) becomes heroes of the resistance movement, while another (Derek de Lint) turns traitor. As usual, Verhoeven’s moral ambiguity and skewed sensibility keep things complicated: far from a patriotic flag-waver, Soldier of Orange is as knotty, subversive, and gonzo as war movies get (witness the hero performing a homoerotic tango), while demonstrating Verhoeven’s ability to balance action with involving human drama.
Tuesday, November 22, 6:30pm
Wednesday, November 23, 3:00pm

Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1980, 35mm, 120m
Dutch with English subtitles
Something of a male-driven precursor to Showgirls: as he would do in that film fifteen years later, Verhoeven takes a lurid soap opera premise, subverts it with deadly dark humor, and dials up the emotional intensity to create a funhouse-mirror reflection of a sick society. Playing like a biker exploitation film as directed by Cassavetes, Spetters is a sexually charged psychodrama that charts the coming-of-age of three blue-collar, motocross-obsessed young men. Hopped up on testosterone, the boys live to race their dirt bikes and dream of one day becoming as famous as the world champion, Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer)—but fate has other things in store. Homosexuality, religion, suicide, misogyny, and empty-headed macho posturing are all addressed with an unflinching frankness and a razor-sharp satiric edge.
Thursday, November 10, 4:30pm
Saturday, November 12, 4:00pm

Starship Troopers
Paul Verhoeven, USA, 1997, 129m
Part comic book–style action adventure, part scathing satire of the military-industrial complex, Starship Troopers is one of the most subversive artistic acts ever perpetrated with a $100 million budget. Welcome to the 24th century, where fresh-faced, idealistic teens are encouraged to join up and become “citizens” by enlisting in the intergalactic army. They’ll grow up, see the universe, and, oh yeah, be slaughtered by the thousands as they battle giant, mutant insects threatening to wipe out mankind. Abetted by seamless special effects and impressively gory CGI carnage, Verhoeven delivers both a thrilling science fiction spectacle and a devastating takedown of jingoistic militarism.
Friday, November 11, 9:00pm
Tuesday, November 15, 9:15pm (Introduction by Paul Verhoeven)
Saturday, November 19, 9:30pm

Total Recall
Paul Verhoeven, USA, 1990, 113m
2084: Arnold Schwarzenegger is construction worker Douglas Quaid, whose virtual reality vacation to Mars turns into the ultimate head-trip when he discovers that his entire life (including wife Sharon Stone) is a sham based on implanted memories. Jetting off to the real Red Planet to find out the truth, he finds himself on the run through a grungy, capitalist dystopia populated by proletarian mutants. Verhoeven’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” is like RoboCop played at hyper-speed, with its themes of corporate control, memory, and identity delivered in an even faster, funnier, and (thanks to Rob Bottin’s impressively icky makeup effects) gorier package.
Saturday, November 12, 6:30pm
Saturday, November 19, 2:00pm

Tricked / Steekspel
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 2012, 55m
English and Dutch with English subtitles
In a daring online experiment, over 400 people contributed to a crowd-sourced script that resulted in what Verhoeven describes as “my 14½, like Fellini's 8½.” It’s a darkly comic family farce in which a Dutch husband and father’s fiftieth birthday celebration is dampened when his ex-flame shows up pregnant with his baby. Meanwhile, he’s got a pervy son, alcoholic daughter, and two business partners planning to push him out of his company to contend with. The exquisite corpse–style writing process results in an hour jam-packed with plot twists, all held together by Verhoeven’s tongue-in-cheek, un-self-serious approach.
Sunday, November 20, 2:00pm
Tuesday, November 22, 5:00pm

Turkish Delight / Turks fruit
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1973, 35mm, 108m
English and Dutch with English subtitles
Named the Best Dutch Film of the Century by the Netherlands Film Festival, Verhoeven’s hugely successful, Academy Award–nominated sophomore feature opens with a giallo-style jolt, develops into a kinky, blackly comic sexploitation romp, and finally blossoms into an alternately sweet and perverse romance. In the first of his many collaborations with Verhoeven, Rutger Hauer stars as a temperamental sculptor who hitches a ride with a free-spirited young woman (Monique van de Ven). In short order they hook up on the side of the road, get married, and settle into a life of round-the-clock lovemaking in his art-strewn studio—but, alas, nothing lasts forever.
Sunday, November 13, 2:00pm
Wednesday, November 16, 6:30pm (Q&A with Paul Verhoeven)

Shorts Program (TRT: 112m)
Each made by Verhoeven before his first feature, these five short films center around youth and school life, and provide a glimpse into the director’s early fascinations with female dominance, technology, and war.
Saturday, November 19, 4:30pm
Sunday, November 20, 6:00pm

A Lizard Too Much / Eén Hagedis te veel
Paul Verhoeven, 1960, Netherlands, 32m
Dutch with English subtitles
In Verhoeven’s first film, an artist’s wife has an affair with one of her students, who has a mistress of his own.

Nothing Special / Niets Bijzonders
Paul Verhoeven, 1961, Netherlands, 9m
Dutch with English subtitles
This improvised short involves a man sitting in a bar, considering his relationship with his girlfriend as he watches a different woman nearby.

Let’s Have a Party / Feest!
Paul Verhoeven, 1963, Netherlands, 28m
Dutch with English subtitles
A shy student falls in love with a girl from another class. After he works up the courage to ask her to the school dance, something unexpected happens.

The Royal Dutch Marine Corps / Het Korps Mariniers
Paul Verhoeven, 1965, Netherlands, 23m
Dutch with English subtitles
Made while Verhoeven was in the military, this propaganda film follows various exercises carried out by the Royal Dutch Marine Corps.

The Wrestler / De Worstelaar
Paul Verhoeven, 1971, Netherlands, 20m
Dutch with English subtitles
A concerned father follows his son and the boy’s lover—the wife of a wrestler—in an attempt to end the relationship before the wrestler finds out.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pop! Goes Cinema: Kadokawa Film & 1980s Japan November 8-December 17, 2016, at Japan Society

New York, NY – Established by the larger-than-life, controversial businessman, producer and visionary Haruki Kadokawa, the game-changing Kadokawa Film studio redefined Japanese popular culture and media from the late 1970s through the 1980s with a series of highly marketed blockbusters, pop idol vehicles and off-the-walls genre films, each a unique blend of mainstream pop and experimental cinema unlike anything Japan had seen at the time.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Kadokawa’s shift from publishing house to cinematic powerhouse, Japan Society presents Pop! Goes Cinema: Kadokawa Film & 1980s Japan, a mini-retrospective of six celebrated and rarely-screened selections from Kadokawa — almost all in brand-new 4k restorations.

Running November 8 through December 17, the series presents the wildly popular genre favorites Sailor Suit and Machine Gun and The Little Girl Who Conquered Time, both among some of the most defining films of the 1980s in Japan, as well as more obscure titles that embody Kadokawa's trademark highbrow-lowbrow clash of sexy, broody, sensual and cool. Revelations abound for the uninitiated and familiar alike from Yusaku Matsuda’s creepy, all-or-nothing performance in The Beast to Die, to the hauntingly beautiful melodies of W’s Tragedy by Joe Hisaishi. Rounding out the series are the unconventional romance Play it, Boogie-Woogie, and the bigger-than-big budget Virus, starring a globe-spanning international cast.

Featured filmmakers include some of Japan’s most revered cult and genre directors, notably Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood, Stray Cat Rock), Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Battles Without Honor and Humanity) and Nobuhiko Obayashi (House, School in the Crosshairs), as well as several career-making and/or career-defining performances from Yusaku Matsuda, one of Japanese cinema's biggest stars though virtually unknown outside of Japan, to Tomoyo Harada and Hiroko Yakushimaru, Kadokawa’s biggest idol stars, whose debut roles are included in the series.

With the exception of Play it, Boogie-Woogie all films have been newly restored digitally as 4k scans output to 2k DCPs, with these screenings marking the U.S. Premieres of the restorations. None of these films are available on home video with English subtitles.

When Haruki Kadokawa transformed the mid-size publishing house into a film studio, he formulated a revolutionary-for-its-time "mixed media" marketing strategy that sold films with crossover books and soundtrack albums. Jumpstarting the 1970s blockbuster phenomenon in Japan, in just ten years the studio produced six of the ten most successful films in Japanese film history. In addition to producing over 70 films and directing six, the flamboyant and eccentric Kadokawa was a prize-winning poet, accomplished sailor, and even the head Shinto priest of his own shrine.

"While an older generation of film critics despised Kadokawa and his films as a step towards depoliticization and a totalizing consumer culture, Kadokawa’s media mix captured the burgeoning anything-goes atmosphere of 1980s pop culture in Japan," writes series curator Alexander Zahlten, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, and Program Director for Nippon Connection Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany from 2002 to 2010. "Kadokawa Film defined an era – and laid the groundwork for the vibrant Japanese media ecology of today."

Japan Society's Senior Film Programmer Aiko Masubuchi adds, "These selections represent a monumental shift in Japanese cinema that happened during the early 1980s, an often overlooked or unfairly maligned decade in Japanese film history that, for better or worse, completely changed popular culture in Japan. While many Japanese audiences will be very familiar with these titles and their stars, this is largely an introduction for New Yorkers to the uniquely spectacular cinema of excess and imagination that characterized Kadokawa Film."

Pop! Goes Cinema is an extension of 40th anniversary celebrations happening this year throughout Japan, including a Kadokawa-organized festival so popular that an encore is in the works, and a major retrospective at Tokyo's National Film Center, Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

Admission: $13/$10 seniors and students/$9 Japan Society members. Special Offer: Purchase tickets for at least three films in the same transaction and receive $2 off each ticket. Tickets can be purchased in person at Japan Society, online at, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258.

All films in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted. Film descriptions written by series curator Alexander Zahlten.

Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (Serafuku to Kikanju)
Tuesday, November 8 at 7 PM
**New 4k Restoration
**Followed by a reception
1981, 112 min., DCP, color. Directed by Shinji Somai. In English with Japanese subtitles. With Hiroko Yakushimaru, Tsunehiko Watase, Akira Emoto.
One of the defining films of 1980s Japanese cinema, Sailor Suit and Machine Gun shows pop idol/actress Hiroko Yakushimaru and director Shinji Somai at the peak of their powers through the story of a schoolgirl who becomes the head of a yakuza group and takes on a sinister drug cartel. Somai uses the pulpy premise to design fascinatingly orchestrated and downright wacky long takes that explore the meaning of postmodern Japan's image culture. For Kadokawa Film it was one of the defining successes of their idol strategy, creating cypher-like media personas that were like nothing that came before. Based on 1978 novel by Jiro Akagawa, Sailor Suit and Machine Gun became the fourth most successful film from Japan at the time and won two Japan Academy Prizes. Yakushimaru was Kadokawa’s first idol star, and the film launched her successful career as an actress and pop singer.

The Beast to Die (Yaju Shisubeshi)
Tuesday, November 15 at 7:00 pm
** New 4k Restoration
1980, 119 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Toru Murakawa. With Yusaku Matsuda, Takeshi Kaga, Hideo Murota.
Action star Yusaku Matsuda started his journey towards melding arthouse film and pop in this mesmerizingly stylized and Nietzschean heist film about a war reporter planning to rob a bank. Scriptwriter Shoichi Maruyama became an overnight sensation for his unique mix of the surreal and hard-boiled realism. Haruki Kadokawa used the film to embark on a new kind of small-scale blockbuster that emphasized artistic freedom. Though based on a bestseller by Haruhiko Oyabu, Kadokawa told Maruyama: "All I want is the novel's title and your modern sensibility." Foreshadowing the self-reflexive play of Japan's bubble era, the film tackles the insecurities of an increasingly international Japan.

Virus (Fukkatsu no Hi)
Tuesday, November 22 at 7:00 pm
** New 4k Restoration
1980, 156 min., DCP, color, in English, French, German and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku. With Masao Kusakari, Isao Natsuyagi, Sonny Chiba.
By far the most expensive film ever made in Japan at the time, the apocalyptic blockbuster Virus was Kadokawa's most widely distributed film outside of Japan. Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Battles Without Honor and Humanity) directs this spectacular story of the struggle for survival of a team of international scientists in the Antarctic after a virus has wiped out the rest of humanity and set off a nuclear countdown. The apex of the Kadokawa blockbuster strategy, Virus was rolled out with a massive advertising campaign. Both gripping and campy, the film signaled the end of Haruki Kadokawa's quest for ever bigger films and his re-orientation towards pop experimentalism and idol stars. The film features a sizeable international cast including Hollywood stars George Kennedy, Olivia Hussey, Robert Vaughn, Glenn Ford, Edward James Olmos, and Chuck Connors. This screening is of the Japanese version, which is almost 50 minutes longer than the cut distributed in the U.S.

Play it, Boogie-Woogie (Suro na Bugi ni Shite Kure)
Tuesday, December 6 at 7:00 pm
1982, 130 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Toshiya Fujita. With Atsuko Asano, Masato Furuoya, Tsutomu Yamazaki.
A young woman, a motorcycle-riding youth, and an older man negotiate a strange and tensely romantic relationship in a film that is unusual in the Kadokawa lineup. Employing 1970s wildman director Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood), Kadokawa Film continues to play with the fragments of U.S. pop culture while Fujita injects a playfully stylized realism. The film continued Haruki Kadokawa's new strategy of using more auteur-minded directors that had no qualms about working in genre film. Atsuko Asano created a stir for her embodiment of a young woman not willing to be bound by conventions and intent on negotiating new forms of relationships.

The Little Girl Who Conquered Time (Toki o Kakeru Shojo)
Tuesday, December 13 at 7:00 pm
** New 4k Restoration
1983, 104 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi. With Tomoyo Harada, Ryoichi Takayanagi, Toshinori Omi.
Launching Kadokawa idol Tomoyo Harada into superstardom, this timeslip drama is based on the famous science fiction novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui and directed by the creative whirlwind Nobuhiko Obayashi (House). As Harada's schoolgirl struggles to figure out why she uncontrollably jumps forward and backward in time, Obayashi's unique and offbeat sensibility crafts a film that captured the hearts of an entire generation of moviegoers in Japan. It also offers a meditation on the new sense of time that a Kadokawa film offered--a vision of Japan that is simultaneously past, present and future. Remade several times since, the most well-known version in the U.S. is the 2006 anime version by Mamoru Hosoda.

W’s Tragedy (W no Higeki)
Saturday, December 17 at 7:00 pm
**New 4k Restoration
**Introduction with guest curator Alexander Zahlten
1984, 108 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Shinichiro Sawai. With Hiroko Yakushimaru, Yoshiko Mita, Masanori Sera.
W's Tragedy racked up all of the major film prizes of 1984 in Japan (Best Director, Film Script, Actress, Supporting Actress and Best Recording for the 9th Japan Academy Prize), a rare occurrence for Kadokawa's pop experimentalism (often met with open revulsion by the powerful older generation of film critics). In her last film for Kadokawa, Hiroko Yakushimaru stars as a young, aspiring stage actress who develops frightening ambitions to become a star in this self-reflexive, fascinatingly complex film. Shinichiro Sawai, one of the great, under-appreciated directors of the 1980s, masterfully follows the sometimes mind-bending Kadokawa pattern of making films that are, in some way, always also about Kadokawa. Scored by Joe Hisaishi, best known for scoring nearly all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films.

Kadokawa & the Shaping of Japanese Popular Culture
Saturday, December 17 at 5:00 pm
Flamboyant and eccentric, Haruki Kadokawa transformed the film and media industry by marketing his films through what he called "media mix." From Haruki's wildly successful entry into film production to the turn towards marketing idols and his spectacular self-promotion, Kadokawa films created the template for the postmodern, anything-goes Japanese pop culture of the 1980s. Later, his brother Tsuguhiko radicalized the media mix model by changing the very way media is consumed. In this talk series curator Alexander Zahlten introduces some key moments in Kadokawa's shaping of Japanese popular culture from the 1970s to today. Approx. 60 min. This event is free with the purchase of a ticket to any film in the series. Seating is limited. Ticketholders will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Paul Schrader at Metrograph in a six film retrospective October 29-November 1

As an influential film critic, screenwriter, and director, Paul Schrader has always gone his own way, whether picking fights with auteurist lemmings, courting controversy with the powderkeg script of Taxi Driver, or constantly developing and discarding radical stylistic approaches in his own films. His latest cinematic melee, Dog Eat Dog, proves Schrader hasn’t mellowed with age. Metrograph is pleased welcome Schrader in-person for a brief tribute to a most unquiet career, from October 29 to November 1.

Dog Eat Dog (2016/93 mins/DCP) - Schrader To Appear In-Person!
This highly anticipated new film from Paul Schrader is a transgressive, genre-defying crime drama starring Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, and Christopher Matthew Cook as ex-cons who are hired by a mysterious mob boss to kidnap a baby for a high ransom. When the abduction goes awry, the unholy three find themselves on the run from both the mob and the cops. Vowing to stay out of prison at all costs, their escape becomes an odyssey skidding and zig-zagging between life and death. Based on the novel by Edward Bunker.
Sat., Oct. 29 - 8:00pm

Affliction (1997/114 mins/35mm)
In a snow-bound small town in New Hampshire, policeman Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) digs into a possible murder case, all while dealing with the death of his mother, the increasingly uncontrollable drinking of his father (James Coburn), and the persecution of inner demons. A grueling actor’s duet, and an extremely personal film for Schrader, exorcizing memories of growing up under a domestic dictator.
Tues., Nov 1 - 9:15pm

American Gigolo (1980/117 mins/35mm) - Schrader In-Person At 3:30pm Screening!
Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Giorgios Armani and Moroder, “visual consultant” Ferdinando Scarfiotti: this is the movie where Schrader found a new alchemy of style and soul, fusing Italian design and west coast cool, queer aesthetics and religious art from the 12th century to Robert Bresson. Quite simply one of the most visually influential films of the 80s… though imitators often forget the humanity at its core.
Sun., Oct. 30 - 3:30pm, 8:30pm

Blue Collar (1978/114 mins/35mm)
Schrader swings for the fences in his feature debut, starring Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto as a trio of Detroit auto line workers who, tired of getting it from both ends from management and the union, decide to bust open the union piggybank, falling afoul of some real bad dudes in the process. No movie would ever again get such pathos from Pryor, also inevitably funny in this, his very best fiction film performance.
Tues., Nov. 1 - 7:00pm

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985/121 mins/35mm) - Schrader To Appear In-Person!
Self-destruction and the (particularly masculine) death drive have been constants in Schrader’s filmography, so it’s only natural that he would be attracted to the story of Yukio Mishima, the renegade/ultra-traditionalist Japanese artist who lived his life as an artwork, with his seppuku his final masterstroke. Starring a masterful Ken Ogata as Mishima, with Philip Glass’s stirring score accompanying sumptuously stylized visualizations from Mishima’s body of work.
Sat., Oct. 29 - 5:45pm

Patty Hearst (1988/108 mins/35mm) - Schrader To Appear In-Person!
An unnerving satire of counterculture radical chic and the fallout of the 1960s, Schrader’s Brechtian biopic stars Natasha Richardson as the Hearst Corp. heiress famously kidnapped and inducted into the Symbionese Liberation Army, here played by Ving Rhames and William Forsythe, in this absorbingly-paranoiac, dark comedy.
Sun., Oct. 30 - 6:00pm

13th (2016) New York Film Festival 2016

Ava DuVernay long angry scream of a film was the opening night film of this year’s New York Film Festival. It is a visceral gut punch that is taking no prisoners. Not so much a documentary as call for a complete change of how we view the issue of race as well as criminality. DuVernay has made a film that is vital and alive and important piece of cinema.

Beginning with the notion that the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution started institutional racism, DuVernay charts the story of how African Americans were put at the center of the rise of what has become our prison state where an ungodly number of men, mostly Black and other minorities are locked up. She explains how an artificial criminality was used to justify racial inequality. Because laws were used to arrest Blacks and get them out of the way, the statistics could then be used to shore up notions that they were not to be trusted. You could then write more laws to continue keeping the "bad people" under control and justify whatever evil you wanted to justify. The problem is that not only did they poison the minds of whites but the minorities themselves It is so wrong on the most basic level, and gotten so far out of hand that it’s threatening to lay waste to more than just the “criminals” it is supposed to control.

It’s a complex issue which DuVerny explains in such a way that there really is no way to argue with her.

As a call to arms the film is an absolute must see. It’s a well-made and well-reasoned explanation as to why minorities of all sorts are pissed off with America. It’s a stunning portrait of racism, both intentional and unintentional, in the country. The weight of DuVerny’s argument is simply crushing. It leaves you exhausted and overwhelmed. It's a film that will move emotionally. It may even move you to get off the couch and have you join the movement to make change. This is a film that really should be seen so that the discussion of what to do can begin in earnest.

As a social document and a petition for change the film cannot be argued with.

However if one takes a step back and looks at 13TH as a film it is not quite as perfect.

Before anyone goes crazy and argues that the film shouldn’t be seen as a just as a film or art and reviewed a such, but as political act, one must remember two things , first this is a film website. It’s my job to look at it as a film. I’m not going to say it’s anything less than what it is- a moving experience, I’m simply going to note a few thing. The second thing is that as of the moment is right now, and fuel for the discussion of race and crime there is going to come a time when the film isn’t seen as a living document but as a film that may or may have had an effect. I don’t know how history will see the film but I can see how I view the film and I have to speak my mind. I can’t give it a bye because it is the hot button topic of the moment.

The first comment I want to make about the film is not so much with the film itself as with the promotion of it. Written up in many places as an exploration of how the 13th Amendment was written as if it were a grand conspiracy to keep the former slaves as slaves from the start, The film is being misrepresented since that really isn’t the case. No evidence presented to that effect in the film. And I'm pretty sure that it were it would be even remotely correct. The film instead states that 13th Amendment created a loophole through which all the racism and hatred the country could muster could be funneled, which is absolutely true. I wish that those talking up the film had chosen their words a bit more carefully because there really wasn't a conspiracy. I'm mentioning this because a couple of people at my day job asked me about the reality behind it since they had never heard it despite having studied law.

The other comment I want to make is that as moving as the film is it is very much a film one can admire more than like. I know this isn’t a film that one should like, it is after all a calculated position paper, but it’s not the sort of film that I think is going to result in many repeat screenings. My feeling is that I’ve seen it once, taken in what it has told me, and now I can take the info and do something with it. I don’t need to go back.

I mention this because in weighing the film and how I felt about it I realized that there are other equally troubling docs, such as the work of Joshua Oppenheimer, the recent ESPN OJ documentary and SHOAH which I will revisit because there seems to be more I could glean from them on a second, third or more pass by them. In looking at 13th I really don’t feel I need to go back. Yes there are sequences I would like to see again, but I don’t need to see it all again. In order to get it all down into a manageable length DuVerny has masterfully edited together so there are no pauses, no wasted moments because it’s all bullet points. This doesn’t mean it’s not a great film, it is, I’m just not sure I need to go back a second time.

I’m also curious how the film will be viewed in five years- will it be a nexus of change or will it be simply a film of a moment. Its too early to know or even speculate.

Regardless how I feel 13th is an important film and a must see.

13TH is currently available on Netflix and is playing in select theaters and is on the festival circuit

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Uncondemned (2015)

Moving portrait of the horrors of that happened in Rwanda and how the genocide and inhuman acts committed ended up being prosecuted in an unprecedented manner when for the first time rape was charged as a war crime.

First focusing on the prosecutors who went to Rwanda to uncover and prosecute war crimes we watch how the case against Akayesu, the mayor of the village of Taba was slowly put together. We then watch as the rape cases are taken out of the case and then, thanks to damning testimony which opened the door added to an amended indictment. The film then switches to the story of the women who were raped and how they came together to speak for not only the women in their country but also all those who never got to have justice in the 80 years prior that rape was defined as a war crime but never prosecuted.

What can I say, I was moved literally to tears. While the story plays out like a thriller, and one about the change in international law, the film first and foremost always is the story of a bunch of people who sought justice. This is a portrait, in the terms of one of the prosecutors, of the 20% of humanity who refuse to let evil win,. They are a group of people, from the prosecutors to the women themseves who you would want to go have a beer with. Its the fact that we care for the prosecutors and especially the women themselves that we are moved so deeply.

I love this film. You'll forgive me for not saying more than that but sitting at my computer writing the film up I find that I feel good because the film gives me hope that there are good people out there. I don't have much to say beyond that because the emotion  has overridden my ability to say critical things about the film.

I do love the sort of twist in the film where it's revealed that the person who made the rape finally prosecutable as a war crime never knew what she had done. Seeing her being taken aback at the realization 17 years on brought a tear to my eye.

An absolute must see film when it begins it's theatrical run Friday at New Yorks Sunshine Landmark and next week at LA's Laemmle Royal

The Lost City of Z (2016) New York Film Festival 2016

James Gray's film of the LOST CITY OF Z is not the book. If you are looking for either author David Grann's journey to find the path taken by his subject Percy Fawcett or the absolute truth  of what happened you are going to be disappointed. Gray has refashioned the story of Fawcett into a tale that is a weird mix of Werner Herzog, Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola, but with a twist all it's own.

The film is, more or less, the story of Col. Percy Fawcett a soldier in the British army. Sent to South America to map the border between Brazil and Bolivia  because there is dispute that will effect the rubber trade and the two countries want an impartial outsider to do it. While traveling Fawcett hears the story of a lost city deep in the jungle. He thinks the tales are fiction until he himself finds evidence of civilization in the jungle. The possibility that the stories might be true hangs with him and over the next 20 years he makes several more trips to the jungle to try to track down the city.

Gray's film is a kind of conundrum in terms of modern cinema. More a throw back to grand old days of epic films that flourished in the 1930 until the 1980's than a modern one, the film presents a real life human spectacle that we don't see any more. Today epics are fantasy, science fiction or comic book in nature and aren't about real human endeavor. This is the real story of a real man filmed in a real jungle. It is not filled with explosions and epic action sequences or endless computer generated shots. What will modern audiences think?

What I love about the film is that it is deceptively simple. Nominally a straight forward tale of exploration Gray has crafted a film with a great deal going on. There are levels beyond the exploration, beyond the obsession. I need to see it again to get a better handle on all of the ideas I suspect are floating around.

In an age where every action is criticized if it's not from the right political view point Gray has fashioned a film that doesn't pretend to take a holier than thou position. We are not looking back at the world with more enlightened eyes, instead we are viewing Fawcett and his achievements from the stand point of the earliest part of the twentieth century. Gray  is clearly amazed at what Fawcett did , and rightly so because regardless of what his motivations were it's hard not to see them as something amazing. He managed to map and record a large portion of an unknown territory and survive among populations that should have killed him as they did each other. His maps and writing would be the reference standard for decades after.

But the film is not about exploration. Instead it is  about what happens when we latch onto something and chase it to the bitter end. This is the story of something consuming one man, his life and those around him. The film is not gospel history, Gray has slightly altered what happened in order to tell his story, which just sort of parallels Fawcett's. It's a story similar to the work of Herzog and Conrad but where those earlier works show how the madness destroys the man at the center, this film shows the human cost to everyone around him. Fawcett's wife is left to rely on the kindness of strangers and is broken by events, his children barely know him, reputations are ruined and people die just for being near him. There is a terrible cost, even beyond Fawcett's end. It is something that Fawcett's friend Costin recognizes before that final trip when he refuses to join the expedition. He has a wife and child he doesn't want to lose. Fawcett is too blind to it and it will cost him not only his life but also his son's.

The point at which the film truly parts ways with history to become it's own story is the final section. Here the question of whether obsession is worth the cost is pondered in the explorers final moments. Gray creates a mystical ending for the explorer and his son. Fawcett is accepting of the end, his son less so.  Fawcett finally understands Costin's notion that what he has found may not be what he expected and is okay with that, his son isn't, and it's clear from the look in his eyes in those final moments he is only being brave for his father's sake (everything has always been for his father's sake). One has to applaud Gray for making an ending that is both truthful to history and to the story he is telling.

While not something you would know if you don't know the story or hadn't read the book, is the fact that Gray does a wonderful job of paring down the story. Where other filmmakers might have been tempted to open up or rewrite events, Gray sticks reasonably close to the facts. He pulls out the basic narrative and those facts that flesh out the tale he is telling but doesn't do the one's he leaving out any injustice. Where other people might have been tempted to have all sorts of scenes of life back home, Gray does so sparingly. We see enough to get the gist and he always does so in a manner that keeps us connected to Fawcett.  We always remain focused on the man as if he is our own lost city. Its a gambit that pays off for while it reduces the screen time of characters such as his strong willed wife, it produces an emotional resonance at the end when we see her alone and clutching at straws that maybe, perhaps, her husband is still alive. It is the only time we see her without her husband  and it breaks our heart.

In keeping things simple Gray never really explores what Fawcett was looking for other than the truth behind a tale. Where other filmmakers might have grafted some reasoning into the film, Gray doesn't. Fawcett is simply looking for a city.  It could have been any sort of McGuffin. There is nothing beyond that and no implications of any sort. It is his obsession we don't need anything more than that. This straight forwardness to the story frees the film up from any sort of post modernist reconstruction or criticism of history or the film because there simply are no hand holds to do so. Gray is so straight forward that it is only some time after the film ends that we might be tempted to take a step back to ponder if we should be at least somewhat critical of the story beyond obsession. However there really is no way to, since it would require us to find things that aren't there and graft our prejudices on to the story, much like the real Fawcett who was so  looking for a great stone city that he walked right by the very thing he was searching for.

This is a film that also manages to be nicely free of major problems with the treatment of the indigenous population as far as Fawcett is concerned. Fawcett's behavior in the film is clearly atypical in his world with his speaking out against slavery (and reporting it to British authorities), letting his guide go when the job as done and treating the people he meets with respect when "society", as represented by Mr Murray, belittles them and flees into the jungle. While not covered in the film, because it isn't germane to the tale being told, the real Fawcett survived for as long as he did because he treated the local people well, Though if one wants to ponder or question if he should have been doing what he was doing consider that in the end  the very people  he was traveling among ultimately made it clear he should never have been there.

From a technical stand point the film is first rate. I can't say enough good about the filmmaking on every level, which is a beautiful marriage of all that goes into making a film. You really must see this on the big screen because you will fall into it.

I also need to say that the cast is incredible and everyone disappears into their roles with Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller and especially Robert Pattinson completely disappearing into their parts. Pattinson is so good that when he showed up at the New York Film Festival press conference several writers around me had no idea who he was in the film.

This is an amazing film from top to bottom. It's a glorious return to classical style filmmaking but not classical story telling. It manages to be a wonderful mix of old school adventure and new era thoughtfulness. It is unlike any that's come out of Hollywood for decades and we are so much better for it.  Highly recommended

THE LOST CITY OF Z premiered at The New York Film Festival, is due for a trip abound the festival circuit  before getting released to theaters in the US April 21, 2017
The cast and director at the New York Film Festival press screening.

KITANO 11 Films Directed by Takeshi "Beat" Kitano" All in 35mm Begins Thursday, November 17 at the Metrograph

Beginning Thursday November 17, Metrograph will present a retrospective of Takeshi "Beat" Kitano, all in 35mm. Comedian, television host, painter, author, producer, distributor, and all-around superstar, Kitano is best known to international audiences as one of the great contemporary filmmakers. As an actor he’s a preternaturally calm, eternally impassive presence, billed as “Beat”; as a director, he’s all about rhythm—the long quiet lull before a storm of violence, the canny delivery of the ace comic. Watching Kitano’s films, one learns to expect the unexpected, whether it’s a swiftly-delivered chopstick into the brainpan or Kitano’s radical shifts between bleak yakuza films, contemplative character pieces, and ventures into wistful comedy. Co-Presented with the Japan Foundation.

Violent Cop (1989 / 35mm / 103 mins)
It’s exactly what the title says. In Renaissance man Kitano’s first outing as film director-star he plays hard-drinking, chain-smoking deadpan police detective Azuma Ryosuke, a man of few words who prefers to let his fists and firearms do the talking for him, shackled with a rookie partner while hot on the trail of a drug kingpin. This is the invention of a new action star: Quiet, compact, observant—and always poised for the fatal strike.
Sat., Nov. 19 - 3:15pm, 8:00pm

Boiling Point (1990 / 35mm / 98 mins)
When Masaki (Masahiko Ono), a minor-league baseball benchwarmer moonlighting as a gas station attendant, finds himself at odds with the local yakuza who’ve attacked his coach, he has to get himself a gun and a little backup in the form of an Okinawa gangster (Kitano) with a grudge, and a genius for causing pain. A darkly-comic second film, which finds Kitano’s mature mastery already in place.
Sat., Nov. 19 - 10:15pm; Weds., Nov. 23 - 5:00pm, 9:00pm

A Scene at the Sea (1991 / 35mm / 101 mins)
A hard turnabout from his early, brutal thrillers, the poignant A Scene at the Sea displays a softer side of Kitano—the story of a deaf garbage collector (Kurôdo Maki) who, after digging a smashed up surfboard out of the trash, begins to pursue a dream of riding the waves, facing the derision of seasoned surfers and local yokels along the way, and supported by his nevertheless skeptical girlfriend (Hiroko Oshima).
Friday, Nov. 18 - 3:00pm, 8:00pm

Sonatine (1993 / 35mm / 94 mins)
Banged-up, middle-aged Tokyo yakuza enforcer Murakawa (Kitano) is tired of the mob life, but he takes on a final assignment to quash a gang war in Okinawa that turns into a hideout holiday. Kitano’s reinvention of the yakuza film is a showcase of surreally-tinged set-pieces, climaxing in a dazzling shootout, all adding up to make the film that established Kitano as the Japanese director of the moment.
Sun., Nov. 20 - 2:00pm, Tues., Nov. 22 - 7:15pm

Getting Any? (1994 / 35mm / 110 mins)
Another of Kitano’s slightly-cracked dreamers, thirtysomething loser Asao (Dankan) aspires to nothing greater than doing the nasty in a car, but first he needs a girl and some wheels. Trying to scrape together the money leads him through a string of misadventures, from appearing in a Zatoichi movie to selling off his grandfather’s internal organs. An inspired, raunchy, anything-goes spoof of Japanese culture which returned Kitano, who pops up as a mad scientist, to his knockabout comedy roots.
Mon., Nov. 21 - 5:00pm; Tues., Nov. 22 - 9:15pm

Kids Return (1996 / 35mm / 107 mins)
Kitano lends his laconic, meditative style to a melancholy character study of two feckless boys, petty hoodlum Masaru (Ken Kaneko) and his shy best friend, Shinji (Masanobu Ando), at the end of their high school careers, floundering about while looking to find a place in society. The peerless ensemble cast includes a comic duo who seem like they might actually make it out of this dead-end world—an autobiographical note revealing the unmistakably personal nature of this project.
Fri., Nov. 18 - 1:00pm, 6:00pm

Hana-bi/Fireworks (1997 / 35mm / 103 mins)
The two sides of Kitano’s directorial personality, the warm, tender, observant dramatist and the master of controlled chaos, merge effortlessly in this, perhaps his best-loved film. Retired detective Nishi (Kitano) turns to duplicitous means to look after his dying wife (Kayoko Kishimoto) and his wheelchair-bound ex-partner (Ren Osugi), but when the yakuza come to collect on a debt, well, he has to take care of them, too. The title means “Fireworks,” and they’re glorious.
Thurs., Nov. 17 - 2:45pm, 7:15pm; Tues., Nov. 22 - 5:00pm

Kikujiro (1999 / 35mm / 121 mins)
Kikujiro (Kitano) is another of the director’s yakuza heroes, but here entrusted with a very different kind of mission—he’s transporting nine-year-old Masao across Japan, looking for the boy’s mother. A gentle, big-hearted slapstick road movie peopled with public park pedos and benevolent Hells Angels, whose relaxed pacing allows for the minute development of ingeniously worked-through gags, including a classic bit at a rural bus stop.
Fri., Nov. 25 - 1:30pm, 6:30pm

Brother (2000 / 35mm / 114 mins)
The cult of Kitano was international by the time this largely English-language American-British-Japanese co-production appeared, with Kitano as an exiled yakuza who finds himself at loose ends in Los Angeles, where he gets involved with a drug ring run by his half-brother and a partner (Kurôdo Maki and Omar Epps), and teaches the Yankees a thing or two about how to make their competition disappear.
Thurs., Nov. 17 - 5:00pm, 9:30pm

Dolls (2002 / 35mm / 114 mins)
Another radical departure from formula for Kitano, this gorgeously stylized, almost ritualistic omnibus film is comprised of three slightly-overlapping stories, united by their touching, pensive tone, their focus on tragic relationships marked by acts of self-sacrifice, and the shared source of inspiration in the Bunraku puppet plays of 17th century writer Monzaemon Chikamatsu. A rich, elegant piece of work.
Thurs., Nov. 24 - 4:30pm, 9:00pm

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman (2003 / 35mm / 116 mins)
When Kitano started out as a director, he gave a shot in the arm to moribund Japanese pop cinema, so it was only appropriate that he would eventually breathe new life into one of the most beloved of samurai franchises. “Beat” plays the title role himself, defending villagers from an out-of-control yakuza gang war in a festival of slicing and dicing that ends (of course!) with a show-stopping dance number.
Fri., Nov. 25 - 4:00pm, 9:00pm

Screening As Part of "Welcome to Metrograph: A-Z"
Platform [Director's Cut] (Jia Zhangke / 2000 / 35mm / 210 mins) produced by Office Kitano
One of the most iconic films produced by Office Kitano, Jia Zhangke’s intimate epic begins in and returns to the director’s hometown of Fenyang, Shanxi Province. Platform follows a theatre troupe over the course of a decade as they are scattered to the wind and finally return, along the way tracking the social shifts that accompany China’s move from the wake of the Cultural Revolution to the threshold of market capitalism. “It’s Pop Art as history.” (J. Hoberman) Metrograph presents the rare, 210-minute extended cut on an imported archival print. Special thanks to producer Shozo Ichiyama and Office Kitano.
Sun., Nov. 27 - 2:00pm

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Ithaca, NY, Oct. 18, 2016 – Ithaca Fantastik will unleash its fifth annual film festival Nov. 9–13 in Ithaca, NY. The IF team has carefully crafted a lineup to offer something for every fantastic film lover.

The festival has horror fans covered, with some of the year’s stand-out genre gems. Fantastic Fest award winner “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” (André Orvedal) will lead the pack, followed closely by the ‘knock your socks-off’, “Safe Neighborhood” (Chris Peckover)—a coming of age twist on home invasion that the IF team calls one of the most fun films of 2016. Horror lovers will be delighted by action-packed “Headshot” (Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto), socially-infused zombie anime “Seoul Station” (Yeon Sang-ho), disturbing “Pet” (Carles Torrens), as well as an over-the-top Indian take on a zombie breakout: “Miruthan” (Shakti Soundar Rajan).

Extreme horror will be well-represented with yakuza tale “Kiyamachi Daruma” (Hideo Sakaki), and “K-Shop” (Dan Pringle), a fun horror film with deeply-anchored social commentary on British society. Plus, the wickedly fun Japanese response to Freddy vs Jason: “Sadako vs Kayako” (Kōji Shiraishi).

Festival offerings will go far beyond pure horror to provide a wide view into the fantastic genre. From enchanting love story “Aloys” (Tobias Nölle), to mental-illness-exploring biopic “I, Olga Hepnarová” (Tomás Weinreb, Petr Kazda), to mumblecore horror comedy “Another Evil” (Carson D. Mell) and Argentinean horror commentary “Terror 5” (Sebastian Rotstein, Federico Rotstein). Sci-Fi fans have not been forgotten; IF will present mind-blowing anime “Nova Seed” (Nick DiLiberto) and the newest trippy film from Hikaru Tsukuda: Return of MIZUNO—these movies will be an excellent segway into horror for those new to the genre.

For its fifth year, IF will continue to bring the best in documentaries to upstate NY. “24x36: A Movie About Movie Posters” (Kevin Burke) will open the festivities. The reality continues with an intimate take on Stanley Kubrick: “S is for Stanley” (Alex Infascelli), as well as “Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex” (Gilles Penso, Alexandre Poncet)—an enlightening look at special effects history with interviews from masters like Phil Tippett, Rick Baker and Guillermo del Toro. Finally, with a perfect mix between feature film and documentary, “Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses” (David Stubbs) mind-blowingly blurs the lines between reality and fiction in this account of a New Zealand exorcism.

For filmmakers, the Nature’s Revenge bumper contest submission deadline has been extended to Oct. 30.

This year’s bumper contest will draw from the theme of retrospective film “Long Weekend,” which proves nothing is scarier than unpredictable nature. Filmmakers are invited to submit their own original nature revenge short film to IF by Oct. 30.

How to Submit
Use to submit to Type NATURE’S REVENGE IF in the message section.

Contest Rules:
1. The film must be no more than 45 seconds,
2. The twist should involve nature taking revenge on humans for their acts against mother nature.

The IF team can’t wait to see what the beautifully twisted minds of seasoned and aspiring filmmakers will come up with. The top three entries will be screened during the festival, and winners will receive an Ithaca Fantastik festival pass.


24x36: A Movie About Movie Poster
Kevin Burke, Canada

Alipato: A Very Brief Life of Ember
Khavn, Philippines/Germany

Tobias Nölle, France/Switzerland

Another Evil
Carson D Mell, US

Rohit Mittal, India

The Autopsy of Jane Doe
André Orvedal, UK

Belief: The Possession Of Janet Moses
David Stubbs, New Zeland

Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex
Gilles Penso & Alexandre Poncet, US

Dearest Sister
Mattie Do, Laos

Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto, Indonesia

Here Alone
Rod Blackhurst, US

I, Olga Hepnarova
Petr Kazda &Thomas Weinreb, Czech Republic/Poland/Slovakia/France

Kiyamachi Daruma
Hideo Sakaki, Japan

Dan Pringle, UK

The Love Witch
Anna Biller, US

Master Cleanse
Bobby Miller, US

Shakti Soundar Rajan, India

My Father Die
Sean Brosnam, US

Nova Seed
Nick DiLiberto, Canada

The Open
Marc Lahore, France

Carles Torrens, USA/Spain

Return of MIZUNO
Hikaru Tsukuda, Japan

S is for Stanley
Alex Infascelli, Italy

Sadako vs. Kayako
Koji Shiraishi, Japan

Safe Neighbourhood
Chris Peckover, Australia/USA

Seoul Station
Yeon Sang-ho, South Korea

She’s Allergic to Cats
Michael Reich, US

Terror 5
Sebastian Rotstein & Federico Rotstein, Argentina

Werewolf 81
Michael Wadleigh, US- 1981

American Werewolf in London
John Landis, US- 1981

Retrospective: The Known Unknowns

The Naked Prey
Cornel Wilde, US- 1965

John Boorman, US- 1972

Long Weekend
Colin Eggleston, AUS- 1978

Altered States
Ken Russell, US- 1980

James Cameron, US- 1981

Visit for more information and announcements to come about special guests and events.

Elle (2016) New York Film Festival 2016

Director Paul Verhoeven and his clues a long way away from the audience
What Paul Verhoeven's provocation of a film is doing in the talk of films almost certain to get an Oscar nomination is one of the great mysteries of life. Frankly if the well respected Isabelle Huppert weren't in it the film would be a  laughed off the screen as a bad joke. Huppert's presence makes one pause simply because her past credentials make you wonder if there is something more here.

I don't think there is. Frankly I think whatever may have been in the source novel has gotten lost on the road to the screen.

The film concerns a woman who is raped, who may or may not have liked it, and who then tries to track down the man responsible. She also has the hots for her neighbor, is having an affair with her best friend's husband, is on the verge of becoming a grandmother and is the daughter of a mass murderer. To say there are a lot of plot threads is an understatement.
Verhoeven looking as fuzzy as his ideas

The film is often played for laughs, but is structured like a thriller. It is so ambiguous about it's motivations that when the film ends you're left wondering what the hell you just saw and why you bothered.

I would like to think that the film is some kind of a sick joke but again Isabelle Huppert is in the film so I have to wonder, at least a little, if there was supposed to be something more going on. Huppert has a career full of challenging, feminist and empowering films so if she saw something in the novel there has to be something in the story, right? Huppert, according the Verhoven, wanted to do a film adaption before he was ever aboard. The film rights went to the director who then tried to make it as an American film but failed so he went to France and made it with Huppert. Whatever happened all meaning seems to have been lost.

I've read a lot of reviews that said this is what happens when a male director makes a film about rape, but to be honest if a female director made the same film or even something close we'd still be scratching our heads. A bad film is a bad film. If a filmmmaker has bad perspective their gender isn't going to make it better or make it excusable.
Isabelle Huppert and her fuzzy director

While there all sorts of bad plot twists ( and I've yet to run across a mass market video game with graphic tentacle sex)  the whole plot and the whole film hinges on how you see Huppert's motivations. Is she looking for revenge? Is she looking for more rough sex? Is the ending a deus ex machina sort of good timing or was that her plan all along? What is she up to? Its not really clear. Its so not clear that you don't know what the film's point of view is other than all the women (more or less) are better off without the men in their lives. We know nothing about Huppert's character or her motivations except what we want to lay upon her when it's all said and done. Its so not on the screen that people can and have gotten into heated arguments about what everything means or is really going on.

I really don't know what to think or what to feel. Though to be honest I kind of feel nothing and was laughing at the film instead of with it. I literally threw up my hands at one point when I was thinking "I bet they'll have a car accident right here" and they did. Clearly Verhoeven is fucking with the audience because he can- which may very well be all he's doing.

Is the film offensive? Oh most probably for the vast majority of civilized people. (I say most people because two guys off to my left found the rape sequences very funny).

Is the film worth seeing? Other than seeing what all the yelling and screaming is about, no, not really. Personally I think no one should see the film so it makes no money and just disappears.

While I have to admire the New York Film Festival for putting a provocative film in the main slate, I really wish they had picked one that was better and worthy of even pondering.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hamilton's America (2016) New York Film Festival 2016

HAMILTON'S AMERICA is a long term record of the show, a filmed from two years before the first Opening Night until it's explosion on the Great White Way. Its a weird biographical mix of the Hamilton the man and Hamilton the show as well as a look at the creative process of show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. It's a film that sells both history and the show to a new audience.

How you react to HAMILTON'S AMERICA is going to depend upon what you are looking to get out of it. Are you looking for a look at the Founding Father or are you looking for a making of the show with lots of clips? Both are here and for the most part both are very well done

As biography of Hamilton the man it is quite good and it makes the man and his achievements something truly alive especially for people living in today's digital age. Using Lin-Manuel Miranda's music the film brings all that this founding father did seem relevant to a world 200 plus years on. While not the story of everything that Hamilton did, it's more than enough to explain why he was so important to the very being of America. Its a great starting place for a discussion of the founding of the country.

The film is also loving portrait of what went into the making the musical that is going to be playing for decades to come. Since filming began when Miranda was only a couple of songs into the score the show gives us a general idea of how it was put together. We get to see how some choices were made and why the show is what it is, Its the perfect film for not only fans of the show but also for theater junkies who want to know how shows come together. One of to Broadway docs premiering at the New York Film Festival this year HAMILTON'S AMERICA is  the better of the two film since here is a documentary that makes us care not only about the people involved but also the show itself.

As good a the film is at relating the stories of both Hamilton and the show to it's audience the film unfortunately has one big problem in that it is ultimately an 84 minute film for the show.  While there is no doubt that the film was started with the idea of being a promotional tool for the show the film seems especially geared geared to putting more butts in the seats of the show. I'm not begrudging the producers and Miranda from making a film that will sell their work,  I am bothered by the fact that when the film was done I didn't feel like I had seen something that taught me something, instead I wanted to jump on line to see what year the next block of tickets was available. I'm sorry, as good as this film is I don't think a documentary should make my over riding desire be to pay five or six hundred dollars for show tickets. Say what you will that is just wrong.

Crass commercialism aside, this is a very good documentary about a show, a founding father and my great (whatever) grandfather.

HAMILTON'S AMERICA premieres on PBS's Great Performances on Friday October 21st at 9pm

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nate Hood picks his favorite films at the New York Film Festival

The was supposed to run as apart of an Unseen wrap up piece but Nate has exceeded expectations and I have to put his piece up on it's own. 

I was generally unimpressed with this year’s selections. By and large, I found the films were either well-intentioned miscalculations or art-house detritus. I personally found it insulting that the curators seemed more interested in indulging obscure European titles like João Pedro Rodrigues’ The Ornithologist than the very best offerings of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Only five films in the main slate were from non-Western countries. Of those, only one—Sang-soo Hong’s Yourself and Yours—was from Asia. This is inexcusable. I cannot understand how the curators could defend including films like Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea while ignoring recent offerings from Park Chan-wook, Hirokazu Koreeda, and Asghar Farhadi. The joke in recent years has been that the New York Film Festival has become Cannes 2.0. But if this is the case, how did award-winners like Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World get passed over for nonsense like Alain Guiraudie’s Staying Vertical?

Most of my favorite films of the festival were revivals, particularly the stunning 4K restoration of Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterpiece The Battle of Algiers (1966) and the Henry Hathaway retrospective. But I did end up enjoying some of the new releases. Here are my ten favorite picks.

10) Manchester by the Sea
I want to make it clear that even though I had issues with its bizarre get-the-nephew-laid side-plot, I can’t deny the film’s simple, exhaustive emotional power.

My review:

9) Moonlight
Though it sometimes felt like the film could have benefitted from another screenplay draft—why exactly didn’t the film end with the protagonist and his boyfriend on the beach instead of staggering on for another 5 minutes?—Moonlight remains a stirring glimpse into a sorely under-represented minority community.

8) Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

My review:
Todd, Jerry and Carrie Fisher at the BRIGHT LIGHTS Q&A

7) Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

I was afraid for a moment that Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens' new documentary would make the titular mother-daughter duo out to be a poisonous couple, constantly slinging abuse towards each other in-between tearful reconciliations. But here's the beauty of the film: both are generally at peace with each other and their relationship. The film is a look back, both at how foolish they were and how foolish they still are.

6) The Lost City of Z

Review at The Young Folks

Kent Jones talks to Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart about PERSONAL SHOPPER

5) Personal Shopper

One of the scariest films I’ve seen all year—which is odd considering it isn’t too interested in being a horror film in the first place.

4) The Unknown Girl

My review:

3) The 13th

I'm not exaggerating when I say that Ava DuVernay's 13th might literally be the most important documentary of 2016. It might even be one of the most important documentaries of the decade. A stunning, stirring examination of the 13th Amendment and how it makes exceptions to slavery in cases that involve prisoners, it explores nothing less than the soul of America through its treatment of African-Americans in the post-Civil War era.

2) I, Daniel Blake

My review:

1) Paterson

Jim Jarmusch's Paterson is a revelation, a heart-rending yet soul-uplifting story of a blue collar poet that reminds me why I love the cinema. I think the world had considered Jarmusch to be a director beyond his glory days, one of those old hat cinematic pioneers content to throw the odd project on the festival circuit every few years. But Paterson? Paterson is just as vibrant, vital, and stunning as anything Jarmusch has ever made. It might very well be my new favorite film of his.

Nightcap 10/16/16 NYFF is done, word on Billy Lynn, help fund TORMENTING THE HEN, and Randi's links

Everyone is gone and the last few people are straggling away from Alice Tully Hall

As this posts the New York Film Festival is done and it’s time to relax and chill out. All of the mad dashing up to Lincoln Center is all over (for now).

I’m not going to do any sort of reflection on the festival. I just don’t have the words. I realized there was going to be a problem when I was talking to one of the Film Society patrons at the Personal Shopper press screening. He had been coming to the festival since it started and attended every year for the last 50 years. To him this year’s festival was the least exciting. There was of course some great films but there was no excitement because for the most part there wasn’t any big deal movies after 13TH screened.

I kind of agree with his assessment with even the public Q&A’s not generating any heat- though Debbie Reynolds call in for BRIGHT LIGHTS was of the highlights.

Actually the festival is probably going down as one with some really weird moments such as the most over hyped introduction ever with Dennis Lim's intro and the festival staff wildly over selling TONI ERDMANN (it seemed to liken it to seeing god) and the complete confusion as to what MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL... was doing on the main slate (though many people I know will argue it shouldn't have been at the festival)

Despite the lack of excitement the festival did have some of the best films of the year. Here are my best of the fest films in no particular order

and I'm including PERSONAL SHOPPER because while not perfect it is truly scary

I also have to mention Adriana Barraza in EVERYTHING ELSE because acting never gets better than that.

And of course there was the phone call by Debbie Reynolds which charmed everyone in attendance at the BRIGHT LIGHTS screenings- that's now on the list of truly great NYFF moments ever.

I am going to be posting Nate Hood's NYFF best of list separately. His wrap up piece is too good to be linked to my nonsense. I also want to thank Nate for helping out with reviews and with acting as my frequent wing man at NYFF screenings and events. As always it's been a pleasure my friend.

The other day a friend said she had just seen THE HOST for the first time. With the NYFF winding down I was reminded of the story of the film playing the New York Film Festival back in 2006. It was amusing as hell to see the film playing at Alice Tully Hall with an audience of upscale film lovers unfamiliar with Korean horror films. (remember this was before New York Asian changed the film landscape in New York) Watching the audience get more and more freaked out as the moster ate people was great fun. It was clear that many people didn’t expect the fear nor did they expect to be literally jumping out of their seats in mid-belly laugh. While there was no post film Q&A the post film talk among the audience was largely centered on what the hell was that and why hadn’t they seen anything like that before. It was for many a game changer

(perhaps it's time to shake up the programmers and get back to screening films that change the way New York and the world sees film)
A quick note or two on BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALF TIME WALK which world premiered at the New York Film Festival.

While as many of you know the word on the film is mixed, the real talk is about the high frame rate projection. The projection is supposed to render the images as if you are looking out a window. It is supposed to amazing and eerie.

I was talking to some people who are involved in the festival and was told a couple of things-

First there will only be two theaters to show it in the new format one in New York and One in LA. It will most certainly never be shown in that way ever again after the the theatrical run because the cost of the projectors are north of a million dollars. They are so costly that the theaters are only borrowing them for the screenings.

Next the technology is such that no other film is planning to shoot using it, which effectively means that in the current for them format is dead, or if not dead a prototype of a years in the future technology.

Lastly the frame rate isn't always 120 frames per second. The war scenes are at that rate. All the other scenes have different rates depending upon the mood that they want to create.

The people I spoke with said that if you're going to see the film and can see it in the high frame format do so. If not you need not rush out to see the film.
With the end of the NYFF Unseen (reviews will finish up Wednesday) is going back into cruising mode. As things stand now things are programmed into January. I’m going to go back and circle my wagons in my personal life and try to sort a few things out. There are things that have to be done and Unseen can take care of itself.

There is going to be lots of older films in the next few weeks. Any new films are going to be things I want to cover. I suspect that in the next few weeks I’ll be doing DOC NYC, SAIFF and a couple other film festivals that have peaked my interest.

Despite the preprogramming stay with us because who knows what is going to pop up.
Producer Ben Umstead has an Indegogo up for the post production on TORMENTING THE HEN. This is definitely a film you want to back. I've seen the films Ben has produced and they are awesome. Help get another one made.

The info can be found here
And now Randi's Links

A new Russian film propagates an old Soviet myth and reveals Putin's move to control history
The TAKEN speech
Syria's Banksy
Russian MST3K
KITT from Knightrider saves Christmas
HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING extended dream sequence
On Disney's Robin Hood or people with no joy should not review films
Broadway shows that shut down to revamp

So long until next year